Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; 2020 Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements and Modifications to a Regulatory Exemption for Sectors, 23229-23240 [2020-08399]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Regulation Identifier Number The Commission assigns a regulation identifier number (RIN) to each regulatory action listed in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Unified Agenda). The Regulatory Information Service Center publishes the Unified Agenda in April and October of each year. You may use the RIN contained in the heading at the beginning of this document to find this action in the Unified Agenda, available at http:// www.reginfo.gov/public/do/ eAgendaMain. List of Subjects in 46 CFR Part 530 Freight, Maritime carriers, Report and recordkeeping requirements. PART 530—SERVICE CONTRACTS 1. The authority citation for part 530 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 5 U.S.C. 553; 46 U.S.C. 305, 40301–40306, 40501–40503, 41307. 2. Amend § 530.13 by revising paragraph (b) introductory text to read as follows: ■ Exceptions and exemptions. * * * * * (b) Commission exemptions. Exemptions from the requirements of this part are governed by 46 U.S.C. 40103(a) and §§ 502.10 and 502.92 of this chapter. The following commodities and/or services are exempt from the requirements of this part: * * * * * By the Commission. Rachel Dickon, Secretary. [FR Doc. 2020–09003 Filed 4–24–20; 8:45 am] lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES BILLING CODE 6730–02–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 [Docket No. 200415–0112; RTID 0648– XX041] Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; 2020 Allocation of Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements and Modifications to a Regulatory Exemption for Sectors National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Interim final rule; request for comments. AGENCY: This rule makes allocations of annual catch entitlements to groundfish sectors for the 2020 fishing year and also makes changes to a previously approved regulatory exemption for sectors. The action is necessary because sectors must receive allocations in order to operate. This action is intended to ensure sector allocations are based on the best scientific information available and to help achieve optimum yield for the fishery. DATES: This rule is effective May 1, 2020. Comments must be received on or before May 27, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2020–0028, by either of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20200028, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. • Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the outside of the envelope, ‘‘Comments on the 2020 Sector Rule.’’ Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information SUMMARY: For the reasons set forth above, the Federal Maritime Commission is amending 46 CFR part 530 as follows: § 530.13 50 CFR Part 648 PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 23229 submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Copies of each sector’s operations plan and contract, as well as the programmatic environmental assessment for sectors operations in fishing years 2015 to 2020, are available from the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO): Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. These documents are also accessible via the GARFO website: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/ northeast-multispecies. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kyle Molton, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9236. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) defines a groundfish sector as a group of persons holding limited access Northeast multispecies permits who have voluntarily entered into a contract and agreed to certain fishing restrictions for a specified period of time. Under the FMP, these sectors are allocated a portion of the allowable catch of each Northeast multispecies stock. Sectors are self-selecting, meaning each sector can choose its members. The Northeast multispecies (groundfish) sector management system allocates a portion of available groundfish catch by stock to each sector. Each sector’s annual allocations are known as annual catch entitlements (ACE) and are based on the collective fishing history of a sector’s members. The ACEs are a portion of a stock’s annual catch limit (ACL) available to commercial groundfish vessels in sectors. A sector determines how to harvest its ACEs and may decide to limit operations to fewer vessels. Atlantic halibut, windowpane flounder, Atlantic wolffish, and ocean pout are not managed under the sector system, and sectors do not receive allocations of these groundfish species. With the exception of halibut that has a one-fish per vessel trip limit, possession of these stocks is prohibited. Because sectors elect to receive an allocation under a quota-based system, the FMP grants sector vessels several universal exemptions from the FMP’s effort controls. These universal exemptions apply to: Trip limits on allocated stocks; Northeast multispecies E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES 23230 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations days-at-sea (DAS) restrictions; the requirement to use a 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) mesh codend when fishing with selective gear on Georges Bank (GB); portions of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) Cod Protection Closures; and the at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage requirement for sector vessels fishing exclusively in the Southern New England (SNE) and Inshore GB Broad Stock Areas (BSA) with extra-large mesh gillnets (10-inch [25.4-cm] or greater). The FMP allows sectors to request additional exemptions to increase flexibility and fishing opportunities but prohibits sectors from requesting exemptions from permitting restrictions, gear restrictions designed to minimize habitat impacts, and most reporting requirements. In addition to the sectors, there are several state-operated permit banks, which receive allocation based on the fishing history of permits that the state holds. The final rule implementing Amendment 17 to the FMP allowed a state-operated permit bank to receive an allocation without needing to comply with sector administrative and procedural requirements (77 FR 16942; March 23, 2012). Instead, permit banks are required to submit a list of permits to us, as specified in the permit bank’s Memorandum of Agreement between NMFS and the state. These permits are not active vessels; instead, the allocations associated with the permits may be leased to vessels enrolled in sectors. State-operated permit banks contribute to the total allocation under the sector system. We approved 16 sectors to operate in fishing years 2019 and 2020 and also approved 19 requested exemptions for sectors (84 FR 17916; April 26, 2019). Because all approved operations plans cover 2 fishing years, approved sectors may continue operations in fishing year 2020. Copies of the operations plans and contracts, and the environmental assessment (EA), are available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/ northeast-multispecies and from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). This action makes 2020 allocations to sectors based on the specifications set in Framework Adjustment 57 (83 FR 18985; May 1, 2018) and 58 (84 FR 34799; July 19, 2019) to the FMP. This action also makes several changes to a previously approved regulatory exemption to increase fishing opportunities for Acadian redfish. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 Catch Limits for Fishing Year 2020 Previously Established Catch Limits Framework 57 (83 FR 18985; May 1, 2018) and Framework 58 (84 FR 34799; July 19, 2019) previously set fishing year 2020 catch limits for all groundfish stocks. The 2020 catch limits for most stocks remain the same as, or similar, to 2019 limits. Framework 58 did not, however, specify a 2020 catch limit for Eastern GB cod or Eastern GB haddock. Eastern GB cod and haddock are management units of the GB cod and GB haddock stocks that are jointly managed with Canada, and the shared quota is set annually. This year, in Framework 59, the Council adopted new or adjusted fishing year 2020 catch limits for 19 of the 20 groundfish stocks based on the 2019 stock assessments, as well as catch limits for Eastern GB cod and Eastern GB haddock. We are working to publish a proposed rule to request comments on the Framework 59 measures. Due to a remand of four stocks back to the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, the development and submission of Framework 59 was delayed, and it will not be possible to implement final measures in time for May 1, 2020. As a result, this rule announces the 2020 catch limits set in Frameworks 57 and 58 that are effective on May 1, 2020, including preliminary sector and common pool allocations based on 2020 rosters submitted by sectors (Table 1). If Framework 59 is approved, the 2020 catch limits announced in this rule for all groundfish stocks, except Atlantic wolffish, will change. We are highlighting one example to frame the importance of these changes for sectors. In Framework 59, the Council recommended a total ACL of 116 mt for GB yellowtail flounder in fishing year 2020. This is a 13-percent increase from the fishing year 2019 ACL set in Framework 58. However, it is 26percent decrease from the fishing year 2020 ACL previously set by Framework 58, because the quota set by Framework 58 did not take into account the portion that would be allocated to Canada through shared management process We are highlighting the differences for this stock because the GB yellowtail flounder allocation in this rule is based on 2020 catch limit previously approved in Framework 58 that is higher than the catch limit that would be implemented under Framework 59. If Framework 59 is approved, the final 2020 ACE for PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 several stocks would be reduced from the initial 2020 ACE that sectors receive. Thus, sectors must be sure not to exceed the catch limits recommended in Framework 59 although at the start of fishing year 2020 they may have sufficient quota to allow fishing above this level. Any catch above Framework 59 quotas would subject sectors to accountability measures applicable to each stock. Default Catch Limits for Eastern GB Cod and Haddock This rule also sets default catch limits for Eastern GB cod and Eastern GB haddock, the only stocks that do not already have a catch limit in place for fishing year 2020. The catch limits for these stocks are based on recommendations of the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (along with GB yellowtail flounder), which is the joint U.S./Canada management body that meets annually to recommend shared quotas for the three transboundary stocks. The catch limits for Eastern GB cod and haddock are set annually and are a portion of the total acceptable biological catch for GB cod and haddock. The 2020 total allowable catch (TAC) for Eastern GB cod and haddock and GB yellowtail will be included in Framework 59. While Framework 58 set a 2020 ACL for GB yellowtail flounder, it did not set 2020 catch limits for Eastern GB cod or Eastern GB haddock, so these TAC’s are not in place for the start of the fishing year until Framework 59 is finalized. The groundfish regulations require default catch limits for any stock for which final specifications are not in place by the beginning of the fishing year on May 1. The FMP’s default specifications provision sets catch at 35 percent of the previous year’s (2019) catch, and the default catch limits are in place from May 1 through July 31, or until the final rule for Framework 59 is implemented if prior to July 31. To comply with these regulations and minimize impacts on the fishery, we are setting these default specifications (Table 2), which will prevent a prohibition on fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area due to a delay in allocations by Framework 59. If Framework 59 is not in place on or before July 31 under the regulations, these default allocations will expire and all goundfishing in the eastern area will be prohibited. E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 23231 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 1—INITIAL 2020 NORTHEAST MULTISPECIES CATCH LIMITS Groundfish sub-ACL Preliminary sector sub-ACL Preliminary common pool sub-ACL State waters subcomponent Other subcomponent .................. .................. .................. .................. 3 18 47 581 74 0 155 9 581 74 0 16 .................. 2 17 ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ 18 158 ................ ................ ................ .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. .................. 51 30 40 0 67 73 119 29 402 2 28 3 21 1 41 30 55 12 7 109 119 29 402 3 218 23 4 1 Recreational sub-ACL Midwater trawl fishery Scallop fishery Smallmesh fisheries 54 11 844 78 4 ........................ 220 ........................ 2,605 ........................ ................ ................ 811 95 ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ 25 25 6 ........................ ................ 377 1,332 831 742 337 444 11,060 2,714 37,152 na na na na na 21 29 23 32 18 74 58 21 248 63 53 94 75 82 ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ........................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ ................ Stock Total ACL GB Cod ** ........................ GOM Cod ........................ GB Haddock ** ................ GOM Haddock ................ GB Yellowtail Flounder ... SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder ................................ CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder ....................... American Plaice .............. Witch Flounder ................ GB Winter Flounder ........ GOM Winter Flounder ..... SNE/MA Winter Flounder Redfish ............................ White Hake ...................... Pollock ............................. N Windowpane Flounder S Windowpane Flounder Ocean Pout ..................... Atlantic Halibut ................ Atlantic Wolffish * ............. 1,741 666 55,249 9,626 157 1,568 610 53,276 9,384 129 1,514 378 52,432 6,700 125 66 31 490 1,420 948 786 428 700 11,357 2,794 38,204 86 457 120 100 84 398 1,361 854 774 355 518 11,118 2,735 37,400 63 53 94 75 82 * Catch limits for all stocks except Atlantic wolffish will be replaced when the final rule for Framework 59 becomes effective. ** Eastern GB cod and haddock are management units of the GB cod and GB haddock stocks and make up a portion of the total ACL for each. TABLE 2—2020 DEFAULT CATCH LIMITS FOR EASTERN GB COD AND HADDOCK 2019 Commercial sub-ACL (mt) Stock Eastern GB Cod .......................................................................................................................................... Eastern GB Haddock ................................................................................................................................... Operations Plan Submissions Annually, we solicit operations plan submissions for consideration for approval; however, sectors already approved to operate in fishing years 2019 and 2020 were not required to submit operations plans for 2020. We received an operations plan from one sector not previously approved to operate in 2020, on behalf of the Georges Bank Cod Hook Sector. However, prior to the development of this rule, the applicant voluntarily withdrew the operations plan from further consideration. As a result, we are not approving any additional sectors to operate in fishing year 2020 beyond those previously approved. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES Sector Allocations for Fishing Year 2020 This rule makes 2020 preliminary ACE allocations to all sectors based on their 2020 roster submissions. The preliminary allocations will be based on the ACL for each stock set in Frameworks 57 and 58. Because sectors are operating under 2-year operations plans for fishing years 2019 and 2020, these allocations would allow vessels enrolled in sectors to operate under VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 their existing operations plan, as approved. Any changes in sector rosters prior to May 1 will be corrected in a subsequent action, if needed; roster changes may result in significant changes in sector allocations. All permits enrolled in a sector, and the vessels associated with those permits, have until April 30, 2020, to withdraw from a sector and fish in the common pool for fishing year 2020. We calculate the sector’s allocation for each stock by summing its members’ potential sector contributions (PSC) for a stock and then multiplying that total percentage by the available commercial sub-ACL for that stock. Table 3 shows the total PSC for each sector by stock for fishing year 2020. Tables 4 and 5 show the initial allocations that each sector are being allocated, in pounds and metric tons, respectively, for fishing year 2020. We provide the final allocations, to the nearest pound, to each sector based on their final May 1 rosters. We will use these final allocations, along with later adjustments for updated ACL’s resulting from Framework 59, ACE transfers, reductions for overages, or increases for carryover, to monitor sector catch. The common pool sub-ACLs are also PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 189 15,000 2020 Default commercial sub-ACL (mt) 66 5,250 included in each of these tables. The fishing year 2020 common pool subACLs initial sub-ACLs are being announced in this action, and are calculated using the PSC of permits not enrolled in sectors. The common pool sub-ACL is managed separately from sectors and does not contribute to available ACE for leasing or harvest by sector vessels. We do not assign a permit separate PSCs for the Eastern GB cod or Eastern GB haddock; instead, we assign each permit a PSC for the GB cod stock and GB haddock stock. Each sector’s GB cod and GB haddock allocations are then divided into an Eastern ACE and a Western ACE, based on each sector’s percentage of the GB cod and GB haddock ACLs. For example, if a sector is allocated 4 percent of the GB cod ACL, the sector is allocated 4 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada Area GB cod total allowable catch (TAC) as its Eastern GB cod. The Eastern GB haddock allocations are determined in the same way. These amounts are then subtracted from the sector’s overall GB cod and haddock allocations to determine its Western GB cod and haddock ACEs. A sector may only harvest its Eastern GB cod and haddock E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 23232 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES ACEs in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area. A sector may also ‘‘convert,’’ or transfer, its Eastern GB cod or haddock allocation into Western GB allocation and fish that converted ACE outside the Eastern GB area. At the start of fishing year 2020, we may withhold 20 percent of each sector’s fishing year 2020 allocation for VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 up to 60 days until we finalize fishing year 2019 catch information. We expect to finalize 2019 catch information for sectors in summer 2020. We will allow sectors to transfer fishing year 2019 ACE for 2 weeks upon our completion of year-end catch accounting to reduce or eliminate any fishing year 2019 overages. If necessary, we will reduce PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 any sector’s fishing year 2020 allocation to account for a remaining overage in fishing year 2019. Each year we notify the Council and sector managers of this deadline and announce this decision on our website at: https:// www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/ northeast-multispecies. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 250001 e ~ j a• i e ~ e ~ j PO 00000 " ~ ] j ~ 'ii >, ~ ::. 8 ~:; 8i _ _g U'il U>, i"' ·iii; " i Ii:: ~ i~ i . ,! 'll = !-~ ~ .i Frm 00029 Fixed Gear Sector 71 12.52998071 0.73401354 1.91835326 0.20788439 0.84655142 0.72002673 2.14380856 0.51837750 1.16323846 0.07169861 12.69711109 1.19821088 0.56862766 1.05536784 3.38554643 Maine Coast Community Sector 88 2.32998583 11.98464139 3.13852375 9.04456871 1.77877572 1.49862885 3.67854324 12.36392502 9.71515020 1.01112798 3.72977245 1.83985825 8.64625895 13.23534516 12.63762150 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM Maine Permit Bank 11 0.13361103 l.15503867 0.04432773 1.12455699 0.01377701 0.03180705 0,31794656 l.16407583 0.72688452 0,00021715 0.42662327 0.01789120 0,82190532 1.65422882 1.69505501 Mooncusser Sector 40 11.87404994 3.36592802 3.72602983 3.03406286 0.38302570 0.32527727 2.58549375 0.76474219 1.71821481 0.89399263 2.48392191 2.26957436 2.65202110 5.80626985 5.44388052 NEFS2 134 6.53179574 27.09953171 10.71516023 23.26870148 1.90753367 1.88524153 25.19408962 11.18850137 14.73088559 3.21758711 24.84305818 4.27040466 15.53821695 9.44684547 14.91566519 NEFS4 58 7.40275568 11.14488493 5.81741902 8,87479953 2.16178984 2.26424835 6,38868785 9.51518694 8.85677985 0,69256854 7.43011764 0.99121910 6,67292639 8.26903303 6.86546011 NEFS5 24 0.47997081 0.00066296 0.81554785 0.00357898 1.27619665 20.04779653 0.20523908 0.43227120 0.56080437 0.43636655 0.01160596 12.03962035 0.01449126 0.09437284 0.04251818 NEFS6 26 3.15560673 3,15154289 3.58637352 4.40638800 3.30346794 5.11479613 4,55077429 4.58294817 6.04426428 1.72190050 5.09998622 1.90633661 6,81202484 4.52299523 3.66855030 NEFS7 17 2.89058595 0.84079975 2.34693176 1.81427506 6.88397295 2.02256417 1.26281381 3.01032328 2.10346784 7.91584447 0.28463030 2.91360294 2.57070048 2.12307674 1.70828132 NEFS8 40 8.34044028 1.21575070 7.74350356 0.72774894 17.07029411 7.05653219 6.55708012 3.26180750 3.67577507 23.88261584 4.91594306 9.67002429 0.91411640 1.06857986 1.20397607 NEFS 10 29 0.52585127 2.47089688 0.17673209 1.28209390 0.00114846 0.54787117 4,28071114 1.08110101 2.04602297 0,01083157 9.10588148 0.60104122 0,33492862 0.65504438 0.76337027 NEFS 11 48 0.39910666 12.35489458 0.03485940 2.86948621 0.00149117 0.01948622 2.52296479 1.69908958 1.65447336 0.00312600 2.13298790 0.02150471 1.94330395 4.50105141 8.90553361 NEFS 12 18 0.62875353 2,87032463 0.09374416 1.01358987 0.00042969 0.01049524 7,83711822 0.50289768 0.56773096 0,00043899 7.53967496 0.21702876 0,22673972 0.28137128 0.77537672 NEFS 13 68 11.82302597 0.78011183 20.47977361 0.96907999 34.78618838 23.37086366 6.51655862 8.51808436 9.23122094 17.35427814 2.14366875 15.64328752 4.38538903 2.22785146 2.64551911 27APR1 New Hampshire Permit Bank 4 0.00082216 1.14528578 0.00003406 0.03234858 0.00002026 0.00001788 0.02180780 0.02847784 0.00615970 0.00000324 0.06070430 0.00003630 0.01940243 0.08135658 0.11135191 Sustainable Harvest Sector 1 22 2.27065603 2.97394879 2.26814141 3.82333744 0.75985178 0.11191776 2.17301939 5.36146512 3.86767505 5.63770961 3.29020132 0.74983812 2.99124424 4.43171281 2.68939055 Sustainable Harvest Sector2 38 2.44932546 4.83857136 1.24018013 3.09928041 3.54799768 3.07190342 4.16162984 3.38856383 2.96435822 3.62980206 4.32153323 3.45263749 3.10638146 5.94749853 6.25026810 86 23.33212075 9.00613498 33.86808278 32.73554226 21.72815141 13.23469673 15.09948417 30.10337722 27.81948208 29.53444092 4.67473756 30.47574019 40.62768063 33.48494809 25.40530189 493 2.90155546 2.86703661 1.98628188 1.66867643 3.54933615 18.66582911 4.50222916 2.51478437 2.54741172 3.98545011 4.80784043 11.72214306 1.15364058 1.11305062 0.88733322 Sustainable Harvest Sector3 Common Pool * This table is based on 2020 rosters submitted by sectors. Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 , 23233 ER27AP20.005</GPH> lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES 23234 VerDate Sep<11>2014 -. -. "' Sector Name Jkt 250001 "'-= u = C Q "' ~ -= Q u = C -= Q u ::;:: 0 C --=Q " -=-=" -"' ="'. ~ --=Q " -=-= -"' " =~. ~ --=Q -=-=" =" ::;:: 0 C =; ::;:: == ... i -=al ==" ... 0" .. ci] =.. = "'! § = u :§ g ...=la.,£ z== 00 ~ r:;:: u ~ r:;:: i . Q . ·;" ~ C . -== = . ..... . .s--= .. .9 t -=" =£ c1a., ::;:: ~ Q r:;:: = ~ ~ § ~] or:;:: C ... = :l ~~ i1 "'la., -= -= = . ~ z . = ." = --= -=~ --=Q " Q Q., 00 PO 00000 Frm 00030 FGS 18 415 6 222 2,031 31 2 0 19 16 22 1 99 14 139 64 2,791 MCCS 3 77 103 363 3,323 1,352 5 1 32 371 183 17 29 21 2,119 803 10,420 MOON 17 393 29 431 3,945 453 1 0 23 23 32 15 19 26 650 352 4,489 MPB 0 4 10 5 47 168 0 0 3 35 14 0 3 0 201 100 1,398 NEFS2 10 216 233 1,240 11,345 3,477 5 1 221 336 277 55 194 49 3,809 573 12,298 NEFS4 11 245 96 673 6,159 1,326 6 2 56 285 167 12 58 11 1,636 502 5,661 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM NEFS5 1 16 0 94 863 1 4 14 2 13 11 7 0 137 4 6 35 NEFS6 5 104 27 415 3,797 658 9 4 40 137 114 29 40 22 1,670 275 3,025 NEFS7 4 96 7 272 2,485 271 20 1 11 90 40 135 2 33 630 129 1,409 NEFS8 12 276 10 896 8,199 109 49 5 58 98 69 407 38 110 224 65 993 NEFS 10 1 17 21 20 187 192 0 0 38 32 39 0 71 7 82 40 629 NEFS 11 1 13 106 4 37 429 0 0 22 51 31 0 17 0 476 273 7,343 NEFS 12 1 21 25 11 99 151 0 0 69 15 11 0 59 2 56 17 639 NEFS 13 17 392 7 2,370 21,684 145 99 16 57 256 174 296 17 179 1,075 135 2,181 NHPB 0 0 10 0 0 5 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 5 5 92 SHS 1 3 75 26 263 2,401 571 2 0 19 161 73 96 26 9 733 269 2,217 SHS2 4 81 42 144 1,313 463 10 2 37 102 56 62 34 39 761 361 5,154 27APR1 SHS3 34 773 77 3,920 35,859 4,892 62 9 133 903 524 504 37 348 9,958 2,033 Common 4 96 25 230 2,103 249 10 13 40 75 48 68 38 134 283 68 Pool Sector 142 3,215 835 11,344 103,776 14,695 274 56 838 2,924 1,834 1,638 744 1,008 24,228 6,002 Total *This table is based on 2020 rosters submitted by sectors and initial 2020 catch limits set by Frameworks 57 and 58. ilNumbers are rounded to the nearest thousand pounds. In some cases, this table shows an allocation of 0, but that sector may be allocated a small amount of that stock in tens or hundreds pounds. " The data in the table represent potential allocations for each sector. 20,947 732 81,721 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 ER27AP20.006</GPH> Table 4 -- ACE (in 1,000 lb ,, by Stock, for Each Sector for Fishing Year 2020*#A lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES Sector Name -0 -0 0 ... u"' = ~ ~ ..i 0 .... u ~ ~~ 0 u ~ 0 ~ ~ "'... "i;; 0 'i ..i= ~ -0 ::c: "' =~~ ~ -0 'i ::c: .. ~ "' ~ ~ 0 ~ -0 'i ::c: . i :: . i -g = .. = . -i5 ~!] >-~ :: = .. ~ ~ :§ 0 (IJ ;;: ~ . . ~i"g ·;... ~ 0 ::: = .. u :§;; u ;;: ~ ~ .. . ........ ·= -=... -0.. ;1:: ~ C i5 ~ -0 ~ § .s ~ ~~ . i.i .... o== ... = ~ .. -0 .. -0 ~ ~ .§ (~I J·=~ ~= ~ -=i="' . -0 i:i:: . ..... :c "'::c:= ~ "'... .s 0 ~ Jkt 250001 PO 00000 FGS 8 188 3 101 921 14 1 0 9 7 10 1 45 6 63 29 1,266 MCCS 2 35 47 165 1,507 613 2 0 15 168 83 8 13 10 961 364 4,726 MOON 8 178 13 196 1,789 206 0 0 10 10 15 7 9 12 295 160 2,036 MPB 0 2 5 2 21 76 0 0 1 16 6 0 2 0 91 46 634 NEFS2 1 100 152 126 25 88 22 1,728 260 5,578 Frm 00031 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 4 98 106 563 5,146 1,577 2 NEFS4 5 111 43 305 2,794 602 3 1 25 129 76 5 26 5 742 228 2,568 NEFS5 0 7 0 43 392 0 2 6 1 6 5 3 0 62 2 3 16 NEFS6 2 47 12 188 1,722 299 4 2 18 62 52 13 18 10 757 125 1,372 NEFS7 2 43 3 123 1,127 123 9 1 5 41 18 61 1 15 286 58 639 NEFS8 6 125 5 407 3,719 49 22 2 26 44 31 185 17 50 102 29 450 0 8 10 9 85 87 0 0 17 15 17 0 32 3 37 18 286 0 6 48 2 17 195 0 0 10 23 14 0 8 0 216 124 3,331 0 9 11 5 45 69 0 0 31 7 5 0 27 1 25 8 290 NEFS 10 NEFS 11 NEFS 12 NEFS 13 NHPB 8 178 3 1,075 9,836 66 45 7 26 116 79 134 8 81 488 61 989 0 0 4 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 42 SHS 1 2 34 12 119 1,089 259 1 0 9 73 33 44 12 4 333 122 1,006 27APR1 SHS2 2 37 19 65 596 210 5 1 17 46 25 28 15 18 345 164 2,338 SHS3 15 350 35 1,778 16,265 2,219 28 4 60 410 237 229 17 158 4,517 922 9,502 Common Pool 2 44 11 104 954 113 5 6 18 34 22 31 17 61 128 31 Sector 1,458 5,146 47,072 6,665 1,326 10,990 2,723 64 379 124 25 380 832 743 338 457 Total *This table is based on fishing year 2020 rosters submitted by sectors and initial 2020 catch limits set by Frameworks 57 and 58. ilNumbers are rounded to the nearest metric ton, but allocations are made in pounds. In some cases, this table shows a sector allocation of Ometric tons, but that sector may be allocated a small amount of that stock in pounds. /\ The data in the table represent potential allocations for each sector. 332 37,068 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 BILLING CODE 3510–22–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 -0 23235 ER27AP20.007</GPH> 23236 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Exemptions Previously Granted for Fishing Years 2019 and 2020 Previously Granted Exemptions for Fishing Years 2019 and 2020 (1–19) We have already granted exemptions from the following requirements for fishing years 2019 and 2020, all of which have been requested and granted in previous years: (1) 120-day block out of the fishery required for Day gillnet vessels; (2) 20-day spawning block out of the fishery required for all vessels; (3) limits on the number of gillnets for Day gillnet vessels outside the GOM; (4) prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel’s gillnet gear; (5) limits on the number of gillnets that may be hauled on GB when fishing under a Northeast multispecies/monkfish DAS; (6) limits on the number of hooks that may be fished; (7) DAS Leasing Program length and horsepower restrictions; (8) prohibition on discarding; (9) gear requirements in the Eastern U.S./Canada Management Area; (10) prohibition on a vessel hauling another vessel’s hook gear; (11) the requirement to declare an intent to fish in the Eastern U.S./Canada Special Access Program (SAP) and the Closed Area (CA) II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP prior to leaving the dock; (12) seasonal restrictions for the Eastern U.S./Canada Haddock SAP; (13) seasonal restrictions for the CA II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP; (14) sampling exemption; (15) 6.5-inch (16.5- cm) minimum mesh size requirement for trawl nets to allow a 5.5-inch (14.0cm) codend on directed redfish trips; (16) prohibition on combining smallmesh exempted fishery and sector trips in SNE; (17) extra-large mesh requirement to target dogfish on trips excluded from ASM in SNE and Inshore GB; (18) requirement that Handgear A vessels carry a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) unit when fishing in a single BSA; and (19) limits on the number of gillnets for Day gillnet vessels in the GOM. A detailed description of the previously granted exemptions and supporting rationale can be found in the applicable final rules identified in Table 6 below. TABLE 6—EXEMPTIONS PREVIOUSLY GRANTED FOR FISHING YEARS 2019 AND 2020 Exemptions Rulemaking Date of publication 1–2, 4–9 .................................. 10–11 ...................................... 12–14 ...................................... 3, 15–16 .................................. 17 ............................................ 18 ............................................ 19 ............................................ Fishing Year 2011 Sector Operations Final Rule .................. Fishing Year 2012 Sector Operations Final Rule .................. Fishing Year 2013 Sector Operations Interim Final Rule ...... Fishing Years 2015–2016 Sector Operations Final Rule ...... Framework 55 Final Rule ....................................................... Amendment 18 Final Rule ..................................................... Fishing Year 2018 Sector Operations Final Rule .................. April 25, 2011 ........................ May 2, 2012 ........................... May 2, 2013 ........................... May 1, 2015 ........................... May 2, 2016 ........................... April 21, 2017 ........................ May 1, 2018 ........................... Citation 76 77 78 80 81 82 83 FR FR FR FR FR FR FR 23076 26129 25591 25143 26412 18706 18965 Northeast Multispecies Federal Register documents can be found at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES New Exemption Requests Not Approved in Fishing Year 2020 Minimum Mesh Size for Gillnets Fished in Georges Bank For fishing year 2020, sectors requested a new exemption to allow sector vessels to fish gillnets with mesh smaller than the 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) minimum mesh size in the GB BSA. Under current regulations, vessels are prohibited from fishing for groundfish with gillnets with mesh smaller than 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in the GOM and GB Regulated Mesh Areas. Minimum mesh size restrictions (50 CFR 648.80(a)(3)(i), (a)(4)(i), (b)(2)(i), and (c)(2)(i)) were implemented under previous groundfish actions to reduce overall mortality on groundfish stocks, change the selection pattern of the fishery to target larger fish, improve survival of sublegal fish, and allow sublegal fish more opportunity to spawn before entering the fishery. Sectors requested the exemption to allow vessels to fish gillnets with mesh as small as 6.0 inches (15.2 cm) in the GB BSA. Additionally, vessels would remain limited to fishing 50 nets under the current mesh size, and could only fish those nets between January 1 and April 30 each year. The intent of the request is to allow vessels fishing with gillnets to target GB haddock, a healthy VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 groundfish stock. We previously approved similar exemptions, which allowed vessels to use 6.0-inch (15.2cm) mesh gillnets to target haddock in the Gulf of Maine; however, these exemptions were disapproved in 2013 (78 FR 25591; May 2, 2013) due to concerns about GOM haddock stock status, which was poor at the time, and potential impacts on protected species. Despite improved stock status of GOM haddock, we have not re-approved an exemption in the GOM because of concerns about bycatch of GOM cod, which is in poor condition. We have several concerns regarding the exemption as requested, including concerns for impacts on GB cod, other groundfish stocks, and the potential for impacts on protected resources. While GB haddock is a healthy stock and we are supportive of efforts to increase utilization of GB haddock quota, we are concerned that allowing the use of gillnets smaller than the 6.5-inch (16.5cm) minimum mesh size may have an impact on GB cod, a stock that is overfished. Although some studies have shown increased selectivity of haddock with smaller mesh gillnets, selectivity curves suggest that smaller mesh gillnets will catch more smaller size cod and other co-occurring species than larger mesh nets. There are studies underway to assess the selectivity of PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 different gillnet mesh sizes, specifically investigating the potential for use in the haddock fishery on GB. However, these studies are not yet completed, and we cannot use them yet to support an exemption. Further, we have concerns about potential impacts on protected species, particularly critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. We are concerned that changes in area fished, gear density, and seasonality of fishing could result in increased interaction risk for this species, as the requested exemption overlaps times and areas known to have a presence of right whales. We are denying the request for approval of this new exemption for fishing year 2020, given the unclear relationship between any potential increase in GB haddock harvest and potential negative impacts on GB cod, combined with the potential for increased interactions with protected resources. We may reevaluate this exemption request in a future action, should further information become available. E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 23237 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations Previously Approved Exemptions We Are Modifying 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) Minimum Mesh Size Requirement for Trawl Nets To Allow a 5.5-inch (14.0-cm) Codend on Directed Redfish Trips Since fishing year 2012, we have approved exemptions that allow sector vessels to target Acadian redfish, a healthy stock with a sub-legal size mesh codend, ranging from 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) to 6 inches (15.2 cm), with different versions requiring different levels of monitoring, different catch thresholds, and different areas where vessels are allowed to use the exemption (Table 7). In 2015, we approved the current version of the exemption (80 FR 25143; May 1, 2015), which was re-approved for fishing years 2019 and 2020. Under the exemption, vessels may fish with a 5.5-inch (14.0-cm) codend, are subject to standard at-sea monitoring coverage, and are required to fish in the Redfish Exemption Area (Figure 1). Sectors are further required to meet a 50-percent redfish catch threshold (50 percent of all groundfish catch on the small-mesh portion of trips must be redfish) and, on observed trips, discards of groundfish may not exceed 5 percent of groundfish catch on the small-mesh portion of the trip. TABLE 7—PREVIOUSLY APPROVED VERSIONS OF THE REDFISH EXEMPTION Exemption Rulemaking Date Citation 6.0 inch (15.2 cm) with 100% NMFS-funded coverage. 4.5 inch (11.4 cm) with 100% NMFS-funded coverage. 4.5 inch (11.4 cm) with 100% Industry-funded coverage. 6.0 inch (15.2 cm) with standard observer coverage. 5.5 inch (14.0 cm) with standard observer coverage. Fishing Year 2012 Sector Operations Final Rule May 2, 2012 ................. 77 FR 26129 Fishing Year 2012 Redfish Exemption Final Rule. Fishing Year 2013 Sector Operations Interim Final Rule. Fishing Year 2014 Sector Operations Final Rule March 5, 2013 .............. 78 FR 14226 May 2, 2013 ................. 78 FR 25591 April 28, 2014 ............... 79 FR 23278 Fishing Year 2015–2016 Sector Operations Final Rule. May 1, 2015 ................. 80 FR 25143 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES Northeast Multispecies Federal Register documents can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/northeast-multispecies. In fishing years 2018 and 2019, several sectors failed to meet the 50percent redfish landings threshold for at least one month; no sectors exceeded the 5-percent groundfish discard threshold. We notified each sector by letter that they were out of compliance, one in April 2019 and the others in February 2020. All of the sectors took steps to improve compliance with the thresholds and were able to restore compliance with the 50-percent threshold. Given the performance of this exemption, we conducted a review of catch data under the exemption since it was approved in 2015. In that review, which included data from nearly 1,500 vessel trip reports and haul-level catch from observed trips, we found a number of areas within the current Redfish Exemption Area where vessels regularly had high levels of non-redfish catch (white hake, GB and GOM haddock, pollock, and GB cod), as well as areas with consistently high levels of redfish catch. In statistical areas 465, 511, and 512, observed hauls with more than 50 percent redfish were extremely rare, instead white hake and haddock dominated groundfish catch. Similarly, in block 131, which is already closed to redfish exemption fishing in February and March due to concerns about GOM cod, observed hauls rarely approached 50 percent redfish; more often haddock, pollock, and white hake made up the majority of catch. In statistical area 464, majority-redfish hauls were occasionally observed, but pollock and sometimes white hake dominated the catch in VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 many observations. In statistical area 561, few exemption hauls were observed, but nearly all were well below 50 percent redfish with other species dominating. In statistical areas 521 and 522, redfish hauls occasionally achieved 50 percent or better redfish catch. However, haddock dominated the catch on many hauls, and there were many hauls observed where cod actually approached or even exceeded 50 percent of the catch; no other areas showed this level of consistently high cod catch under the exemption. In most of statistical area 515, and in a portion of southeastern statistical area 513, redfish were regularly the largest portion of the catch on observed redfish hauls; in many, if not most, hauls redfish exceeded 75 percent of total groundfish catch. While other species, especially pollock and haddock, were occasionally caught in abundance in these areas, redfish dominated in most cases. As a result, we are modifying the Redfish Exemption Area to reflect these findings, and better balance opportunities for sector vessels to efficiently harvest redfish with our concerns for targeting of non-redfish stocks and unintended impacts on other groundfish stocks under the exemption. The revised Redfish Exemption Area falls entirely in the GOM Regulated Mesh Area, and includes all waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone north of 42 degrees 20 minutes North latitude, east of 69 degrees 30 minutes West longitude, south of 43 degrees 20 minutes North latitude, and West of 67 PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 degrees 40 minutes West longitude (Figure 2). This area overlaps most of statistical area 515, and also includes a smaller portion of statistical area 513, where our review showed consistently clean redfish fishing, and the vast majority of redfish harvest. Vessels are prohibited from using the exemption in any overlapping closures, including year round closed areas and habitat areas that prohibit the use of mobile gear. We expect the revised Redfish Exemption Area to continue to allow vessels to efficiently harvest redfish. The revised area includes areas where the majority of redfish are harvested, proportional catch of redfish is high, and bycatch of other groundfish stocks is generally low. We also expect the revised area to reduce opportunities for vessels to target non-redfish groundfish stocks with sub-legal mesh, as it excludes areas where redfish are rarely encountered as a significant proportion of catch by vessels using the exemption. In particular, several areas we propose to remove from the footprint of the exemption area showed consistently high catches of white hake and GB cod, both of which are of concern given their stock status; pollock and haddock catch were also very high in some areas. In portions of the Redfish Exemption Area that overlap the GB BSA, we found significant haddock and cod catch; as a result, we are concerned that including any portion of GB in the Redfish Exemption Area may reduce the incentive for vessels to fish under the E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 23238 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES universal sector exemption allowing vessels to fish with a 6.0-inch (15.2-cm) mesh codend when using a haddock separator or Ruhle trawl. This exemption is intended to increase sector vessels ability to target haddock and to minimize unnecessary bycatch of GB cod and other stocks. While our review of catch data could not determine the intent of vessels fishing in the area, it appeared that vessels were less likely to use selective gear when given the less restrictive option of fishing under the redfish exemption. Because there is currently an overlap where vessels may choose between a 5.5-inch (14.0-cm) codend on a redfish trip or a 6.0-inch (15.2-cm) codend with selective gear, the incentive to use the selective gear is minimized, inconsistent with the intent of the universal exemption. The new Redfish Exemption Area should better balance opportunities for sector vessels to efficiently harvest redfish with concerns for impacts on non-redfish stocks, and help reduce the risk of sectors falling out of compliance with the redfish catch and groundfish discard thresholds intended to ensure the viability of the exemption. We are also changing the gear stowage requirements for vessels on redfish exemption trips. Currently, vessels must VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 stow any sub-legal codend below deck until the vessel begins the redfish portion of its exemption trip, that is, it has transited to the Redfish Exemption Area and notified NMFS, via VMS, that it is is switching to a codend smaller than the regulations would otherwise allow and has reported all catch on board. We are eliminating the requirement to stow the sub-legal codend below deck prior to use, and instead will now require the sub-legal codend to be stowed not available for use consistent with the methods outlined in § 648.2. We will allow for on-reel stowage consistent with requirements for transiting the GOM Cod Protection Closures and Seasonal Closure Areas. This change will allow vessels on a redfish trip to store a net with a sub-legal codend attached on a net reel when transiting to the Redfish Exemption Area so long as the there is no containment rope, codend tripping device, or similar mechanism attached, and the surface of the net is covered and securely bound. Similarly, this change will allow vessels to store sub-legal codends on-deck, so long as they are fan folded, bound around the circumference, and fastened to the deck or rail of the vessel. These changes are intended to better reflect the operational PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 realities of vessels that fish using the redfish exemption. In many cases, storing a codend below-deck may not be practical. We are also concerned that the additional stowage requirement for the redfish exemption is unnecessary and may create confusion for members of the industry, leading to inadvertent noncompliance. While we are removing the below-deck codend storage requirements under the exemption, this action does not remove the regulation requiring gear to be stowed and not available for immediate use when transiting closed areas consistent with § 648.81(e). As a result, vessels transiting the Cashes Ledge Closed Area, the Western GOM Closure Area, and the GOM Cod Spawning Protection Closure (Whaleback) are still be required to remove their codend from the net and store it below deck if using on-reel stowage for their nets. All other provisions of the redfish exemption remain in place, with the exception of the changes to the Redfish Exemption Area and gear stowage requirements. We are taking public comment on these changes to the redfish exemption in order to assist us in reviewing the impacts and benefits of these changes. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations 23239 Figure 1 -- Previously Approved Redfish Exemption Area eo-w 70'W eo-w IJl'W c::::IFtedlish~Naa ~ Redfish ExemptionAre&Cod CklstR ~...,-co-,_ E:;J_u,u,-.,.,.. ~ .....,,u,s-- EllslernUS/Canada_..,,_ Figure 2 -- Revised Redfish Exemption Area 11°w c::J 45"N ea·w 70°W ffl"W Revised Redfish Exemption Area ~ Groundfish Closed Area ~ W!stern U.SJCanadaArea [:ZI Eastern U.S./Canada Afea 11111 Eastern US/Canada Haddock SAP Area 44"N 43"N BILLING CODE 3510–22–C lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES Classification The NMFS Assistant Administrator (AA) has determined that this interim final rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 The AA finds that prior notice and the opportunity for public comment, pursuant to authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Similarly, the need to implement these measures in a timely manner constitutes good cause under PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 authority contained in 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to make the rule effective May 1, 2020, so that this interim final rule may be in place by the start of the 2020 fishing year. Unforeseen delays and the need to address unanticipated issues prevented NMFS from publishing a proposed rule in a timeframe that would E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1 ER27AP20.008</GPH> 42"N lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with RULES 23240 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 81 / Monday, April 27, 2020 / Rules and Regulations have enabled a final rule to be published prior to May 1, 2020. Avoiding a delay in effectiveness beyond the May 1, 2020, start of the fishing year prevents vessel owners from incurring significant adverse economic impacts. A delay in implementing this rule would prevent sector vessels from fishing for groundfish until this rulemaking is finalized and sector allocations are made. This would cause major disruption and would effectively shut down the entire groundfish fishery during the delay. Being prohibited from fishing for up to 30 days would have a significant adverse economic impact on these vessels because vessels would be prevented from fishing in a month when sector vessels historically landed approximately 10 percent of several allocations, including Eastern GB cod and GB winter flounder. Any delay would have a significant adverse economic impact on these vessels that are already experiencing negative economic impacts and hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic. A delay would result in substantial lost fishing opportunities during a peak season for groundfish vessels. Additionally, any delay would diminish the intent of this rule to provide flexibility in vessel operations and maximum opportunity to catch the fishery quota. For the reasons outlined above, good cause exists to waive the otherwise applicable requirement to delay implementation of this rule for a period of 30 days. Additionally, sector exemptions grant relief from restrictions, which provides operational flexibility and efficiency, and helps to avoid short-term adverse economic impacts on NE multispecies sector vessels. When operating under, sector vessels are exempted from common pool trip limits, DAS limits, and seasonal closed areas. These exemptions provide vessels with flexibility in choosing when to fish, how long to fish, what species to target, and how much catch they may land. They also relieve some gear restrictions, reporting and monitoring requirements, and provide access to additional fishing grounds through the authorization of exemptions from Northeast multispecies regulations. This flexibility increases efficiency and reduces costs for sector vessels. This action is exempt from the procedures of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866. This rule does not contain policies with Federalism or ‘‘takings’’ implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and E.O. 12630, respectively. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:16 Apr 24, 2020 Jkt 250001 This interim final rule is exempt from the procedures of the Regulatory Flexibility Act because the rule is issued without opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for public comment. [FR Doc. 2020–08399 Filed 4–24–20; 8:45 am] including the EA and other supporting documents for the action, are available upon request from Thomas A. Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. These documents are also accessible via the internet at www.nefmc.org. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Ferrio, Fishery Management Specialist, (978) 281–9180. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: BILLING CODE 3510–22–P Background Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Dated: April 15, 2020. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 200408–0105] RIN 0648–BJ46 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Skate Complex; Framework Adjustment 8 and 2020– 2021 Specifications National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS is implementing final measures recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council in Framework Adjustment 8 to the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan. This action specifies skate catch limits for fishing years 2020 and 2021 and increases seasonal possession limits for both the wing and bait fisheries. This action is necessary to establish skate specifications consistent with the most recent scientific information and the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The intent of this action is to establish catch limits for the skate fishery, while providing operational flexibility to fishery participants. DATES: Effective on May 1, 2020. ADDRESSES: The New England Fishery Management Council prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for Northeast Skate Complex Framework Adjustment 8 that describes the action and other considered alternatives. The EA provides an analysis of the biological, economic, and social impacts of the preferred measures and other considered alternatives; a Regulatory Impact Review; and economic analysis. Copies of this framework adjustment, SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 The New England Fishery Management Council manages a complex of seven skate species (barndoor, clearnose, little, rosette, smooth, thorny, and winter skate) off the New England and mid-Atlantic coasts through the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The thorny skate stock is 16 years into a 25-year rebuilding plan, and possession of the species remains prohibited until the stock is rebuilt. None of the six other skate stocks are overfished or subject to overfishing. Skates are harvested and managed within two targeted fisheries, one for food (the wing fishery) and one for bait used in other fisheries (the bait fishery). The FMP requires that the Council annually review and establish catch and possession limits for the skate fishery through the specifications process for up to two fishing years at a time. This action implements increased quotas and seasonal possession limits for both the wing and bait skate fisheries in fishing years 2020 and 2021. The current specifications (84 FR 4373; February 15, 2019) end on April 30, 2020, and will roll over in the event this rule is delayed beyond that date. The proposed rule for this action published in the Federal Register on February 5, 2020 (85 FR 6494), and comments were accepted through March 6, 2020. We received eight comments from the public, but no changes to the final rule are necessary as a result of those comments (see Comments and Responses for additional detail). Additional background information regarding the development of these specifications was provided in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. Final Action We approve Skate Framework 8 and the Council-recommended specifications as outlined in our proposed rule for this action (85 FR 6494). These 2020–2021 specifications have higher fishery catch limits than fishing year 2019, including a 4-percent increase in acceptable biological catch E:\FR\FM\27APR1.SGM 27APR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 81 (Monday, April 27, 2020)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 23229-23240]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-08399]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 200415-0112; RTID 0648-XX041]


Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern 
United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; 2020 Allocation of 
Northeast Multispecies Annual Catch Entitlements and Modifications to a 
Regulatory Exemption for Sectors

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Interim final rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This rule makes allocations of annual catch entitlements to 
groundfish sectors for the 2020 fishing year and also makes changes to 
a previously approved regulatory exemption for sectors. The action is 
necessary because sectors must receive allocations in order to operate. 
This action is intended to ensure sector allocations are based on the 
best scientific information available and to help achieve optimum yield 
for the fishery.

DATES: This rule is effective May 1, 2020. Comments must be received on 
or before May 27, 2020.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2020-0028, by either of the following methods:
     Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to 
www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2020-0028, click the 
``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields, and enter or 
attach your comments.
     Mail: Submit written comments to Michael Pentony, Regional 
Administrator, 55 Great Republic Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. Mark the 
outside of the envelope, ``Comments on the 2020 Sector Rule.''
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous 
comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to remain 
anonymous).
    Copies of each sector's operations plan and contract, as well as 
the programmatic environmental assessment for sectors operations in 
fishing years 2015 to 2020, are available from the NMFS Greater 
Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO): Michael Pentony, Regional 
Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930. These documents are also accessible via 
the GARFO website: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/northeast-multispecies.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kyle Molton, Fishery Management 
Specialist, (978) 281-9236.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan (FMP) defines a 
groundfish sector as a group of persons holding limited access 
Northeast multispecies permits who have voluntarily entered into a 
contract and agreed to certain fishing restrictions for a specified 
period of time. Under the FMP, these sectors are allocated a portion of 
the allowable catch of each Northeast multispecies stock. Sectors are 
self-selecting, meaning each sector can choose its members.
    The Northeast multispecies (groundfish) sector management system 
allocates a portion of available groundfish catch by stock to each 
sector. Each sector's annual allocations are known as annual catch 
entitlements (ACE) and are based on the collective fishing history of a 
sector's members. The ACEs are a portion of a stock's annual catch 
limit (ACL) available to commercial groundfish vessels in sectors. A 
sector determines how to harvest its ACEs and may decide to limit 
operations to fewer vessels. Atlantic halibut, windowpane flounder, 
Atlantic wolffish, and ocean pout are not managed under the sector 
system, and sectors do not receive allocations of these groundfish 
species. With the exception of halibut that has a one-fish per vessel 
trip limit, possession of these stocks is prohibited.
    Because sectors elect to receive an allocation under a quota-based 
system, the FMP grants sector vessels several universal exemptions from 
the FMP's effort controls. These universal exemptions apply to: Trip 
limits on allocated stocks; Northeast multispecies

[[Page 23230]]

days-at-sea (DAS) restrictions; the requirement to use a 6.5-inch 
(16.5-cm) mesh codend when fishing with selective gear on Georges Bank 
(GB); portions of the Gulf of Maine (GOM) Cod Protection Closures; and 
the at-sea monitoring (ASM) coverage requirement for sector vessels 
fishing exclusively in the Southern New England (SNE) and Inshore GB 
Broad Stock Areas (BSA) with extra-large mesh gillnets (10-inch [25.4-
cm] or greater). The FMP allows sectors to request additional 
exemptions to increase flexibility and fishing opportunities but 
prohibits sectors from requesting exemptions from permitting 
restrictions, gear restrictions designed to minimize habitat impacts, 
and most reporting requirements.
    In addition to the sectors, there are several state-operated permit 
banks, which receive allocation based on the fishing history of permits 
that the state holds. The final rule implementing Amendment 17 to the 
FMP allowed a state-operated permit bank to receive an allocation 
without needing to comply with sector administrative and procedural 
requirements (77 FR 16942; March 23, 2012). Instead, permit banks are 
required to submit a list of permits to us, as specified in the permit 
bank's Memorandum of Agreement between NMFS and the state. These 
permits are not active vessels; instead, the allocations associated 
with the permits may be leased to vessels enrolled in sectors. State-
operated permit banks contribute to the total allocation under the 
sector system.
    We approved 16 sectors to operate in fishing years 2019 and 2020 
and also approved 19 requested exemptions for sectors (84 FR 17916; 
April 26, 2019). Because all approved operations plans cover 2 fishing 
years, approved sectors may continue operations in fishing year 2020. 
Copies of the operations plans and contracts, and the environmental 
assessment (EA), are available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/northeast-multispecies and from NMFS (see ADDRESSES). This 
action makes 2020 allocations to sectors based on the specifications 
set in Framework Adjustment 57 (83 FR 18985; May 1, 2018) and 58 (84 FR 
34799; July 19, 2019) to the FMP. This action also makes several 
changes to a previously approved regulatory exemption to increase 
fishing opportunities for Acadian redfish.

Catch Limits for Fishing Year 2020

Previously Established Catch Limits

    Framework 57 (83 FR 18985; May 1, 2018) and Framework 58 (84 FR 
34799; July 19, 2019) previously set fishing year 2020 catch limits for 
all groundfish stocks. The 2020 catch limits for most stocks remain the 
same as, or similar, to 2019 limits. Framework 58 did not, however, 
specify a 2020 catch limit for Eastern GB cod or Eastern GB haddock. 
Eastern GB cod and haddock are management units of the GB cod and GB 
haddock stocks that are jointly managed with Canada, and the shared 
quota is set annually.
    This year, in Framework 59, the Council adopted new or adjusted 
fishing year 2020 catch limits for 19 of the 20 groundfish stocks based 
on the 2019 stock assessments, as well as catch limits for Eastern GB 
cod and Eastern GB haddock. We are working to publish a proposed rule 
to request comments on the Framework 59 measures. Due to a remand of 
four stocks back to the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee, 
the development and submission of Framework 59 was delayed, and it will 
not be possible to implement final measures in time for May 1, 2020.
    As a result, this rule announces the 2020 catch limits set in 
Frameworks 57 and 58 that are effective on May 1, 2020, including 
preliminary sector and common pool allocations based on 2020 rosters 
submitted by sectors (Table 1). If Framework 59 is approved, the 2020 
catch limits announced in this rule for all groundfish stocks, except 
Atlantic wolffish, will change.
    We are highlighting one example to frame the importance of these 
changes for sectors. In Framework 59, the Council recommended a total 
ACL of 116 mt for GB yellowtail flounder in fishing year 2020. This is 
a 13-percent increase from the fishing year 2019 ACL set in Framework 
58. However, it is 26-percent decrease from the fishing year 2020 ACL 
previously set by Framework 58, because the quota set by Framework 58 
did not take into account the portion that would be allocated to Canada 
through shared management process
    We are highlighting the differences for this stock because the GB 
yellowtail flounder allocation in this rule is based on 2020 catch 
limit previously approved in Framework 58 that is higher than the catch 
limit that would be implemented under Framework 59. If Framework 59 is 
approved, the final 2020 ACE for several stocks would be reduced from 
the initial 2020 ACE that sectors receive. Thus, sectors must be sure 
not to exceed the catch limits recommended in Framework 59 although at 
the start of fishing year 2020 they may have sufficient quota to allow 
fishing above this level. Any catch above Framework 59 quotas would 
subject sectors to accountability measures applicable to each stock.

Default Catch Limits for Eastern GB Cod and Haddock

    This rule also sets default catch limits for Eastern GB cod and 
Eastern GB haddock, the only stocks that do not already have a catch 
limit in place for fishing year 2020. The catch limits for these stocks 
are based on recommendations of the Transboundary Management Guidance 
Committee (along with GB yellowtail flounder), which is the joint U.S./
Canada management body that meets annually to recommend shared quotas 
for the three transboundary stocks. The catch limits for Eastern GB cod 
and haddock are set annually and are a portion of the total acceptable 
biological catch for GB cod and haddock. The 2020 total allowable catch 
(TAC) for Eastern GB cod and haddock and GB yellowtail will be included 
in Framework 59. While Framework 58 set a 2020 ACL for GB yellowtail 
flounder, it did not set 2020 catch limits for Eastern GB cod or 
Eastern GB haddock, so these TAC's are not in place for the start of 
the fishing year until Framework 59 is finalized. The groundfish 
regulations require default catch limits for any stock for which final 
specifications are not in place by the beginning of the fishing year on 
May 1. The FMP's default specifications provision sets catch at 35 
percent of the previous year's (2019) catch, and the default catch 
limits are in place from May 1 through July 31, or until the final rule 
for Framework 59 is implemented if prior to July 31. To comply with 
these regulations and minimize impacts on the fishery, we are setting 
these default specifications (Table 2), which will prevent a 
prohibition on fishing in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area due to a delay 
in allocations by Framework 59. If Framework 59 is not in place on or 
before July 31 under the regulations, these default allocations will 
expire and all goundfishing in the eastern area will be prohibited.

[[Page 23231]]



                                                Table 1--Initial 2020 Northeast Multispecies Catch Limits
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                     Preliminary   Preliminary                   Midwater                            State
            Stock              Total    Groundfish   sector sub-   common pool   Recreational     trawl     Scallop   Small-mesh  waters sub- Other sub-
                                ACL      sub-ACL         ACL         sub-ACL        sub-ACL      fishery    fishery    fisheries   component   component
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
GB Cod **...................    1,741        1,568         1,514            54  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          18         155
GOM Cod.....................      666          610           378            11             220  .........  .........  ..........          47           9
GB Haddock **...............   55,249       53,276        52,432           844  ..............        811  .........  ..........         581         581
GOM Haddock.................    9,626        9,384         6,700            78           2,605         95  .........  ..........          74          74
GB Yellowtail Flounder......      157          129           125             4  ..............  .........         25           3           0           0
SNE/MA Yellowtail Flounder..       66           31            25             6  ..............  .........         16  ..........           2          17
CC/GOM Yellowtail Flounder..      490          398           377            21  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          51          41
American Plaice.............    1,420        1,361         1,332            29  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          30          30
Witch Flounder..............      948          854           831            23  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          40          55
GB Winter Flounder..........      786          774           742            32  ..............  .........  .........  ..........           0          12
GOM Winter Flounder.........      428          355           337            18  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          67           7
SNE/MA Winter Flounder......      700          518           444            74  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          73         109
Redfish.....................   11,357       11,118        11,060            58  ..............  .........  .........  ..........         119         119
White Hake..................    2,794        2,735         2,714            21  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          29          29
Pollock.....................   38,204       37,400        37,152           248  ..............  .........  .........  ..........         402         402
N Windowpane Flounder.......       86           63            na            63  ..............  .........         18  ..........           2           3
S Windowpane Flounder.......      457           53            na            53  ..............  .........        158  ..........          28         218
Ocean Pout..................      120           94            na            94  ..............  .........  .........  ..........           3          23
Atlantic Halibut............      100           75            na            75  ..............  .........  .........  ..........          21           4
Atlantic Wolffish *.........       84           82            na            82  ..............  .........  .........  ..........           1           1
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Catch limits for all stocks except Atlantic wolffish will be replaced when the final rule for Framework 59 becomes effective.
** Eastern GB cod and haddock are management units of the GB cod and GB haddock stocks and make up a portion of the total ACL for each.


    Table 2--2020 Default Catch Limits for Eastern GB Cod and Haddock
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          2020 Default
               Stock                 2019 Commercial    commercial sub-
                                       sub-ACL (mt)         ACL (mt)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eastern GB Cod....................                189                 66
Eastern GB Haddock................             15,000              5,250
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Operations Plan Submissions

    Annually, we solicit operations plan submissions for consideration 
for approval; however, sectors already approved to operate in fishing 
years 2019 and 2020 were not required to submit operations plans for 
2020. We received an operations plan from one sector not previously 
approved to operate in 2020, on behalf of the Georges Bank Cod Hook 
Sector. However, prior to the development of this rule, the applicant 
voluntarily withdrew the operations plan from further consideration. As 
a result, we are not approving any additional sectors to operate in 
fishing year 2020 beyond those previously approved.

Sector Allocations for Fishing Year 2020

    This rule makes 2020 preliminary ACE allocations to all sectors 
based on their 2020 roster submissions. The preliminary allocations 
will be based on the ACL for each stock set in Frameworks 57 and 58. 
Because sectors are operating under 2-year operations plans for fishing 
years 2019 and 2020, these allocations would allow vessels enrolled in 
sectors to operate under their existing operations plan, as approved.
    Any changes in sector rosters prior to May 1 will be corrected in a 
subsequent action, if needed; roster changes may result in significant 
changes in sector allocations. All permits enrolled in a sector, and 
the vessels associated with those permits, have until April 30, 2020, 
to withdraw from a sector and fish in the common pool for fishing year 
2020.
    We calculate the sector's allocation for each stock by summing its 
members' potential sector contributions (PSC) for a stock and then 
multiplying that total percentage by the available commercial sub-ACL 
for that stock. Table 3 shows the total PSC for each sector by stock 
for fishing year 2020. Tables 4 and 5 show the initial allocations that 
each sector are being allocated, in pounds and metric tons, 
respectively, for fishing year 2020. We provide the final allocations, 
to the nearest pound, to each sector based on their final May 1 
rosters. We will use these final allocations, along with later 
adjustments for updated ACL's resulting from Framework 59, ACE 
transfers, reductions for overages, or increases for carryover, to 
monitor sector catch. The common pool sub-ACLs are also included in 
each of these tables. The fishing year 2020 common pool sub-ACLs 
initial sub-ACLs are being announced in this action, and are calculated 
using the PSC of permits not enrolled in sectors. The common pool sub-
ACL is managed separately from sectors and does not contribute to 
available ACE for leasing or harvest by sector vessels.
    We do not assign a permit separate PSCs for the Eastern GB cod or 
Eastern GB haddock; instead, we assign each permit a PSC for the GB cod 
stock and GB haddock stock. Each sector's GB cod and GB haddock 
allocations are then divided into an Eastern ACE and a Western ACE, 
based on each sector's percentage of the GB cod and GB haddock ACLs. 
For example, if a sector is allocated 4 percent of the GB cod ACL, the 
sector is allocated 4 percent of the commercial Eastern U.S./Canada 
Area GB cod total allowable catch (TAC) as its Eastern GB cod. The 
Eastern GB haddock allocations are determined in the same way. These 
amounts are then subtracted from the sector's overall GB cod and 
haddock allocations to determine its Western GB cod and haddock ACEs. A 
sector may only harvest its Eastern GB cod and haddock

[[Page 23232]]

ACEs in the Eastern U.S./Canada Area. A sector may also ``convert,'' or 
transfer, its Eastern GB cod or haddock allocation into Western GB 
allocation and fish that converted ACE outside the Eastern GB area.
    At the start of fishing year 2020, we may withhold 20 percent of 
each sector's fishing year 2020 allocation for up to 60 days until we 
finalize fishing year 2019 catch information. We expect to finalize 
2019 catch information for sectors in summer 2020. We will allow 
sectors to transfer fishing year 2019 ACE for 2 weeks upon our 
completion of year-end catch accounting to reduce or eliminate any 
fishing year 2019 overages. If necessary, we will reduce any sector's 
fishing year 2020 allocation to account for a remaining overage in 
fishing year 2019. Each year we notify the Council and sector managers 
of this deadline and announce this decision on our website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/northeast-multispecies.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

[[Page 23233]]

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[[Page 23234]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR27AP20.006


[[Page 23235]]


[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR27AP20.007

BILLING CODE 3510-22-C

[[Page 23236]]

Exemptions Previously Granted for Fishing Years 2019 and 2020

Previously Granted Exemptions for Fishing Years 2019 and 2020 (1-19)

    We have already granted exemptions from the following requirements 
for fishing years 2019 and 2020, all of which have been requested and 
granted in previous years: (1) 120-day block out of the fishery 
required for Day gillnet vessels; (2) 20-day spawning block out of the 
fishery required for all vessels; (3) limits on the number of gillnets 
for Day gillnet vessels outside the GOM; (4) prohibition on a vessel 
hauling another vessel's gillnet gear; (5) limits on the number of 
gillnets that may be hauled on GB when fishing under a Northeast 
multispecies/monkfish DAS; (6) limits on the number of hooks that may 
be fished; (7) DAS Leasing Program length and horsepower restrictions; 
(8) prohibition on discarding; (9) gear requirements in the Eastern 
U.S./Canada Management Area; (10) prohibition on a vessel hauling 
another vessel's hook gear; (11) the requirement to declare an intent 
to fish in the Eastern U.S./Canada Special Access Program (SAP) and the 
Closed Area (CA) II Yellowtail Flounder/Haddock SAP prior to leaving 
the dock; (12) seasonal restrictions for the Eastern U.S./Canada 
Haddock SAP; (13) seasonal restrictions for the CA II Yellowtail 
Flounder/Haddock SAP; (14) sampling exemption; (15) 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) 
minimum mesh size requirement for trawl nets to allow a 5.5-inch (14.0-
cm) codend on directed redfish trips; (16) prohibition on combining 
small-mesh exempted fishery and sector trips in SNE; (17) extra-large 
mesh requirement to target dogfish on trips excluded from ASM in SNE 
and Inshore GB; (18) requirement that Handgear A vessels carry a Vessel 
Monitoring System (VMS) unit when fishing in a single BSA; and (19) 
limits on the number of gillnets for Day gillnet vessels in the GOM. A 
detailed description of the previously granted exemptions and 
supporting rationale can be found in the applicable final rules 
identified in Table 6 below.

                     Table 6--Exemptions Previously Granted for Fishing Years 2019 and 2020
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Exemptions                      Rulemaking           Date of publication            Citation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1-2, 4-9..........................  Fishing Year 2011 Sector    April 25, 2011.......  76 FR 23076
                                     Operations Final Rule.
10-11.............................  Fishing Year 2012 Sector    May 2, 2012..........  77 FR 26129
                                     Operations Final Rule.
12-14.............................  Fishing Year 2013 Sector    May 2, 2013..........  78 FR 25591
                                     Operations Interim Final
                                     Rule.
3, 15-16..........................  Fishing Years 2015-2016     May 1, 2015..........  80 FR 25143
                                     Sector Operations Final
                                     Rule.
17................................  Framework 55 Final Rule...  May 2, 2016..........  81 FR 26412
18................................  Amendment 18 Final Rule...  April 21, 2017.......  82 FR 18706
19................................  Fishing Year 2018 Sector    May 1, 2018..........  83 FR 18965
                                     Operations Final Rule.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Northeast Multispecies Federal Register documents can be found at http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/sustainable/species/multispecies/ sustainable/species/multispecies/.

New Exemption Requests Not Approved in Fishing Year 2020

Minimum Mesh Size for Gillnets Fished in Georges Bank

    For fishing year 2020, sectors requested a new exemption to allow 
sector vessels to fish gillnets with mesh smaller than the 6.5-inch 
(16.5-cm) minimum mesh size in the GB BSA. Under current regulations, 
vessels are prohibited from fishing for groundfish with gillnets with 
mesh smaller than 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in the GOM and GB Regulated Mesh 
Areas. Minimum mesh size restrictions (50 CFR 648.80(a)(3)(i), 
(a)(4)(i), (b)(2)(i), and (c)(2)(i)) were implemented under previous 
groundfish actions to reduce overall mortality on groundfish stocks, 
change the selection pattern of the fishery to target larger fish, 
improve survival of sublegal fish, and allow sublegal fish more 
opportunity to spawn before entering the fishery.
    Sectors requested the exemption to allow vessels to fish gillnets 
with mesh as small as 6.0 inches (15.2 cm) in the GB BSA. Additionally, 
vessels would remain limited to fishing 50 nets under the current mesh 
size, and could only fish those nets between January 1 and April 30 
each year. The intent of the request is to allow vessels fishing with 
gillnets to target GB haddock, a healthy groundfish stock. We 
previously approved similar exemptions, which allowed vessels to use 
6.0-inch (15.2-cm) mesh gillnets to target haddock in the Gulf of 
Maine; however, these exemptions were disapproved in 2013 (78 FR 25591; 
May 2, 2013) due to concerns about GOM haddock stock status, which was 
poor at the time, and potential impacts on protected species. Despite 
improved stock status of GOM haddock, we have not re-approved an 
exemption in the GOM because of concerns about bycatch of GOM cod, 
which is in poor condition.
    We have several concerns regarding the exemption as requested, 
including concerns for impacts on GB cod, other groundfish stocks, and 
the potential for impacts on protected resources. While GB haddock is a 
healthy stock and we are supportive of efforts to increase utilization 
of GB haddock quota, we are concerned that allowing the use of gillnets 
smaller than the 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) minimum mesh size may have an 
impact on GB cod, a stock that is overfished. Although some studies 
have shown increased selectivity of haddock with smaller mesh gillnets, 
selectivity curves suggest that smaller mesh gillnets will catch more 
smaller size cod and other co-occurring species than larger mesh nets. 
There are studies underway to assess the selectivity of different 
gillnet mesh sizes, specifically investigating the potential for use in 
the haddock fishery on GB. However, these studies are not yet 
completed, and we cannot use them yet to support an exemption. Further, 
we have concerns about potential impacts on protected species, 
particularly critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. We are 
concerned that changes in area fished, gear density, and seasonality of 
fishing could result in increased interaction risk for this species, as 
the requested exemption overlaps times and areas known to have a 
presence of right whales. We are denying the request for approval of 
this new exemption for fishing year 2020, given the unclear 
relationship between any potential increase in GB haddock harvest and 
potential negative impacts on GB cod, combined with the potential for 
increased interactions with protected resources. We may reevaluate this 
exemption request in a future action, should further information become 
available.

[[Page 23237]]

Previously Approved Exemptions We Are Modifying

6.5-inch (16.5-cm) Minimum Mesh Size Requirement for Trawl Nets To 
Allow a 5.5-inch (14.0-cm) Codend on Directed Redfish Trips

    Since fishing year 2012, we have approved exemptions that allow 
sector vessels to target Acadian redfish, a healthy stock with a sub-
legal size mesh codend, ranging from 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) to 6 inches 
(15.2 cm), with different versions requiring different levels of 
monitoring, different catch thresholds, and different areas where 
vessels are allowed to use the exemption (Table 7). In 2015, we 
approved the current version of the exemption (80 FR 25143; May 1, 
2015), which was re-approved for fishing years 2019 and 2020. Under the 
exemption, vessels may fish with a 5.5-inch (14.0-cm) codend, are 
subject to standard at-sea monitoring coverage, and are required to 
fish in the Redfish Exemption Area (Figure 1). Sectors are further 
required to meet a 50-percent redfish catch threshold (50 percent of 
all groundfish catch on the small-mesh portion of trips must be 
redfish) and, on observed trips, discards of groundfish may not exceed 
5 percent of groundfish catch on the small-mesh portion of the trip.

                         Table 7--Previously Approved Versions of the Redfish Exemption
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Exemption                      Rulemaking                   Date                   Citation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.0 inch (15.2 cm) with 100% NMFS-  Fishing Year 2012 Sector    May 2, 2012..........  77 FR 26129
 funded coverage.                    Operations Final Rule.
4.5 inch (11.4 cm) with 100% NMFS-  Fishing Year 2012 Redfish   March 5, 2013........  78 FR 14226
 funded coverage.                    Exemption Final Rule.
4.5 inch (11.4 cm) with 100%        Fishing Year 2013 Sector    May 2, 2013..........  78 FR 25591
 Industry-funded coverage.           Operations Interim Final
                                     Rule.
6.0 inch (15.2 cm) with standard    Fishing Year 2014 Sector    April 28, 2014.......  79 FR 23278
 observer coverage.                  Operations Final Rule.
5.5 inch (14.0 cm) with standard    Fishing Year 2015-2016      May 1, 2015..........  80 FR 25143
 observer coverage.                  Sector Operations Final
                                     Rule.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Northeast Multispecies Federal Register documents can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/northeast-multispecies.

    In fishing years 2018 and 2019, several sectors failed to meet the 
50-percent redfish landings threshold for at least one month; no 
sectors exceeded the 5-percent groundfish discard threshold. We 
notified each sector by letter that they were out of compliance, one in 
April 2019 and the others in February 2020. All of the sectors took 
steps to improve compliance with the thresholds and were able to 
restore compliance with the 50-percent threshold. Given the performance 
of this exemption, we conducted a review of catch data under the 
exemption since it was approved in 2015. In that review, which included 
data from nearly 1,500 vessel trip reports and haul-level catch from 
observed trips, we found a number of areas within the current Redfish 
Exemption Area where vessels regularly had high levels of non-redfish 
catch (white hake, GB and GOM haddock, pollock, and GB cod), as well as 
areas with consistently high levels of redfish catch. In statistical 
areas 465, 511, and 512, observed hauls with more than 50 percent 
redfish were extremely rare, instead white hake and haddock dominated 
groundfish catch. Similarly, in block 131, which is already closed to 
redfish exemption fishing in February and March due to concerns about 
GOM cod, observed hauls rarely approached 50 percent redfish; more 
often haddock, pollock, and white hake made up the majority of catch. 
In statistical area 464, majority-redfish hauls were occasionally 
observed, but pollock and sometimes white hake dominated the catch in 
many observations. In statistical area 561, few exemption hauls were 
observed, but nearly all were well below 50 percent redfish with other 
species dominating. In statistical areas 521 and 522, redfish hauls 
occasionally achieved 50 percent or better redfish catch. However, 
haddock dominated the catch on many hauls, and there were many hauls 
observed where cod actually approached or even exceeded 50 percent of 
the catch; no other areas showed this level of consistently high cod 
catch under the exemption. In most of statistical area 515, and in a 
portion of southeastern statistical area 513, redfish were regularly 
the largest portion of the catch on observed redfish hauls; in many, if 
not most, hauls redfish exceeded 75 percent of total groundfish catch. 
While other species, especially pollock and haddock, were occasionally 
caught in abundance in these areas, redfish dominated in most cases. As 
a result, we are modifying the Redfish Exemption Area to reflect these 
findings, and better balance opportunities for sector vessels to 
efficiently harvest redfish with our concerns for targeting of non-
redfish stocks and unintended impacts on other groundfish stocks under 
the exemption.
    The revised Redfish Exemption Area falls entirely in the GOM 
Regulated Mesh Area, and includes all waters of the U.S. Exclusive 
Economic Zone north of 42 degrees 20 minutes North latitude, east of 69 
degrees 30 minutes West longitude, south of 43 degrees 20 minutes North 
latitude, and West of 67 degrees 40 minutes West longitude (Figure 2). 
This area overlaps most of statistical area 515, and also includes a 
smaller portion of statistical area 513, where our review showed 
consistently clean redfish fishing, and the vast majority of redfish 
harvest. Vessels are prohibited from using the exemption in any 
overlapping closures, including year round closed areas and habitat 
areas that prohibit the use of mobile gear.
    We expect the revised Redfish Exemption Area to continue to allow 
vessels to efficiently harvest redfish. The revised area includes areas 
where the majority of redfish are harvested, proportional catch of 
redfish is high, and bycatch of other groundfish stocks is generally 
low. We also expect the revised area to reduce opportunities for 
vessels to target non-redfish groundfish stocks with sub-legal mesh, as 
it excludes areas where redfish are rarely encountered as a significant 
proportion of catch by vessels using the exemption. In particular, 
several areas we propose to remove from the footprint of the exemption 
area showed consistently high catches of white hake and GB cod, both of 
which are of concern given their stock status; pollock and haddock 
catch were also very high in some areas. In portions of the Redfish 
Exemption Area that overlap the GB BSA, we found significant haddock 
and cod catch; as a result, we are concerned that including any portion 
of GB in the Redfish Exemption Area may reduce the incentive for 
vessels to fish under the

[[Page 23238]]

universal sector exemption allowing vessels to fish with a 6.0-inch 
(15.2-cm) mesh codend when using a haddock separator or Ruhle trawl. 
This exemption is intended to increase sector vessels ability to target 
haddock and to minimize unnecessary bycatch of GB cod and other stocks. 
While our review of catch data could not determine the intent of 
vessels fishing in the area, it appeared that vessels were less likely 
to use selective gear when given the less restrictive option of fishing 
under the redfish exemption. Because there is currently an overlap 
where vessels may choose between a 5.5-inch (14.0-cm) codend on a 
redfish trip or a 6.0-inch (15.2-cm) codend with selective gear, the 
incentive to use the selective gear is minimized, inconsistent with the 
intent of the universal exemption. The new Redfish Exemption Area 
should better balance opportunities for sector vessels to efficiently 
harvest redfish with concerns for impacts on non-redfish stocks, and 
help reduce the risk of sectors falling out of compliance with the 
redfish catch and groundfish discard thresholds intended to ensure the 
viability of the exemption.
    We are also changing the gear stowage requirements for vessels on 
redfish exemption trips. Currently, vessels must stow any sub-legal 
codend below deck until the vessel begins the redfish portion of its 
exemption trip, that is, it has transited to the Redfish Exemption Area 
and notified NMFS, via VMS, that it is is switching to a codend smaller 
than the regulations would otherwise allow and has reported all catch 
on board. We are eliminating the requirement to stow the sub-legal 
codend below deck prior to use, and instead will now require the sub-
legal codend to be stowed not available for use consistent with the 
methods outlined in Sec.  648.2. We will allow for on-reel stowage 
consistent with requirements for transiting the GOM Cod Protection 
Closures and Seasonal Closure Areas. This change will allow vessels on 
a redfish trip to store a net with a sub-legal codend attached on a net 
reel when transiting to the Redfish Exemption Area so long as the there 
is no containment rope, codend tripping device, or similar mechanism 
attached, and the surface of the net is covered and securely bound. 
Similarly, this change will allow vessels to store sub-legal codends 
on-deck, so long as they are fan folded, bound around the 
circumference, and fastened to the deck or rail of the vessel. These 
changes are intended to better reflect the operational realities of 
vessels that fish using the redfish exemption. In many cases, storing a 
codend below-deck may not be practical. We are also concerned that the 
additional stowage requirement for the redfish exemption is unnecessary 
and may create confusion for members of the industry, leading to 
inadvertent non-compliance. While we are removing the below-deck codend 
storage requirements under the exemption, this action does not remove 
the regulation requiring gear to be stowed and not available for 
immediate use when transiting closed areas consistent with Sec.  
648.81(e). As a result, vessels transiting the Cashes Ledge Closed 
Area, the Western GOM Closure Area, and the GOM Cod Spawning Protection 
Closure (Whaleback) are still be required to remove their codend from 
the net and store it below deck if using on-reel stowage for their 
nets.
    All other provisions of the redfish exemption remain in place, with 
the exception of the changes to the Redfish Exemption Area and gear 
stowage requirements. We are taking public comment on these changes to 
the redfish exemption in order to assist us in reviewing the impacts 
and benefits of these changes.
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Classification

    The NMFS Assistant Administrator (AA) has determined that this 
interim final rule is consistent with the Northeast Multispecies FMP, 
other provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and other applicable law.
    The AA finds that prior notice and the opportunity for public 
comment, pursuant to authority set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), would 
be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Similarly, the 
need to implement these measures in a timely manner constitutes good 
cause under authority contained in 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3), to make the rule 
effective May 1, 2020, so that this interim final rule may be in place 
by the start of the 2020 fishing year. Unforeseen delays and the need 
to address unanticipated issues prevented NMFS from publishing a 
proposed rule in a timeframe that would

[[Page 23240]]

have enabled a final rule to be published prior to May 1, 2020. 
Avoiding a delay in effectiveness beyond the May 1, 2020, start of the 
fishing year prevents vessel owners from incurring significant adverse 
economic impacts. A delay in implementing this rule would prevent 
sector vessels from fishing for groundfish until this rulemaking is 
finalized and sector allocations are made. This would cause major 
disruption and would effectively shut down the entire groundfish 
fishery during the delay. Being prohibited from fishing for up to 30 
days would have a significant adverse economic impact on these vessels 
because vessels would be prevented from fishing in a month when sector 
vessels historically landed approximately 10 percent of several 
allocations, including Eastern GB cod and GB winter flounder. Any delay 
would have a significant adverse economic impact on these vessels that 
are already experiencing negative economic impacts and hardships due to 
the coronavirus pandemic. A delay would result in substantial lost 
fishing opportunities during a peak season for groundfish vessels. 
Additionally, any delay would diminish the intent of this rule to 
provide flexibility in vessel operations and maximum opportunity to 
catch the fishery quota. For the reasons outlined above, good cause 
exists to waive the otherwise applicable requirement to delay 
implementation of this rule for a period of 30 days.
    Additionally, sector exemptions grant relief from restrictions, 
which provides operational flexibility and efficiency, and helps to 
avoid short-term adverse economic impacts on NE multispecies sector 
vessels. When operating under, sector vessels are exempted from common 
pool trip limits, DAS limits, and seasonal closed areas. These 
exemptions provide vessels with flexibility in choosing when to fish, 
how long to fish, what species to target, and how much catch they may 
land. They also relieve some gear restrictions, reporting and 
monitoring requirements, and provide access to additional fishing 
grounds through the authorization of exemptions from Northeast 
multispecies regulations. This flexibility increases efficiency and 
reduces costs for sector vessels.
    This action is exempt from the procedures of Executive Order (E.O.) 
12866.
    This rule does not contain policies with Federalism or ``takings'' 
implications as those terms are defined in E.O. 13132 and E.O. 12630, 
respectively.
    This interim final rule is exempt from the procedures of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act because the rule is issued without 
opportunity for prior notice and opportunity for public comment.

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.

    Dated: April 15, 2020.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2020-08399 Filed 4-24-20; 8:45 am]
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